Mysterious startup Magic Leap, valued at $4.5 billion, is starting to manufacture its still unannounced product, potentially for a launch next year.
Magic Leap is one of the most mysterious and hyped startups in technology. It has raised $1.39 billion from investors including Google, Alibaba, KPCB, and Andreeseen Horowitz. Google CEO Sundar Pichai sits on its board.
The company may attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2017, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a reputation for being tapped into the Asian consumer electronics supply chain.
Magic Leap’s product is a pair of glasses that uses cutting-edge optics to superimpose computer graphics into the real word. Essentially, a tiny projector or laser beams light into the users’ eyes in a way that computer graphics are indistinguishable from real light.
The prototypes currently circulating around Dania Beach, Florida, where the company is headquartered, have a smartphone-sized battery pack with computer components attached to the glasses by a wire, according to sources familiar with Magic Leap’s prototypes.
If Magic Leap attends CES, it would make sense as an occasion to reveal its product publicly for the first time. If Magic Leap does not have a “highly finished prototype to showcase at the next CES,” Kuo thinks it is unlikely to go into mass production next year, according to a note sent to investors seen by Business Insider.
“We attend CES every year,” a Magic Leap spokesperson told Business Insider. “So that won’t be anything new. But as you know, presenting vs. attending are two very different things.”
Magic Leap has deals with suppliers in the United States and Asia, says Kuo, which are key steps to making the device a reality. He picks up on a Chinese language report in TechNews that says that Magic Leap has placed “million-unit orders” to a supplier.
“Our industry survey indicates that MagicLeap’s software and form factor design have significantly improved in the past months, and the company may attend 2017 CES,” Kuo writes. “We have recently learned that Himax, Corning, TSMC, Sinbon & CCP Contact Probe are among Magic Leap’s suppliers.”
One big unknown about Magic Leap’s product is its price. Kuo highlights the high cost of some of Magic Leap’s components, such as a micro projector from Himax that costs about $35 to $45 per unit. Magic Leap also requires “high-speed transmission of AR and MR video” that would mean the company would have to pay $10-$20 for a high-frequency connector from CCR Contact Probe, which is over 10 times more expensive than a general connector.
In testimony from August included as part of a recent lawsuit, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz wrote that “Magic Leap is completing its manufacturing plant for its anticipated products.”
A Magic Leap spokesperson says its manufacturing plant is the company’s new offices in Plantation, which were announced in October 2015.
“We just achieved a number of major product dev milestones; things are full on exciting at Magic Leap,” Abovitz tweeted earlier this week. “Heavy work still ahead of us – but the summit is in sight :-)”